At long last The Sun has stopped publishing photos of bare-breasted women on Page Three. Men’s rights groups across the world will surely be celebrating such a momentous victory; no longer will menfolk be objectified by the newspaper’s daily, demeaning attacks on their intellect.
The internet has exploded with feminists and post-feminists and women’s rights activists hustling to give their two pence on the topic – but they’ve missed the point. This isn’t about them. This isn’t even about women. This is about men.
Page Three objectifies and demeans men, and it has done since its creation.
You can imagine the scene: it’s 1970 and young (ish) whippersnapper Rupert Murdoch is twiddling his thumbs, desperate to come up with a plan to boost his paper’s sales. “How do I get working-class men interested in the news, and more importantly, how can I encourage the fools to READ?”
In a similar vein to children’s magazines that come with a must-have toy or sweetie taped to the front to engage and excite their immature audience, Murdoch did the same with his invention of the Page Three girl.
In a day and age where internet porn didn’t exist and you had to scuttle down a back alley to a seedy adult shop to purchase your next fix of a naked breast, the free gift with the 50p Sun would have seemed like finding Willy Wonka’s Golden Ticket in every issue. It was a stroke of genius which saw The Sun’s sales rocket to become the UK’s most read newspaper.
But all in all the whole concept of Page Three is an insult on the intelligence of working-class men (who the paper is aimed at and who form the vast majority of the readers). It has wrongly led the world to believe that all men are this simple – it tells women that they can manipulate these unsophisticated beings to do anything they want – just by flashing a bit of booby. Poor, uncomplicated men.
The Sun’s Page Three has always made me feel uncomfortable – the solution? I don’t read it. I don’t know any women who do. Good Housekeeping magazine’s relentless focus on women staying at home and making the perfect quiche Lorraine to delight their husbands also makes me feel uncomfortable, so I avoid it.
But similarly – I find the host of women’s glossy magazines which prattle on about female empowerment and ‘champion’ women in business on one page, then tell you that the only way to be “seen” in 2015 is by following their ultimate eyeshadow tips in a 24-page-pullout – equally uncomfortable.
It’s fine and dandy for these women’s magazines to put skinny, half-or-fully-naked women on their front covers because it’s “empowering”, or whatever, and yet they seem to be the most vocal when it comes to criticising Page Three.
Don’t get me wrong, nudity has no place in amongst the breaking news stories of the day, and in a supposed “family” newspaper it is utterly inappropriate. But the Page Three models are consenting adults, making a living in the way that they choose. The Sun readers make a choice to purchase the paper, it is not forced in front of anyone. Feminism is about freedom and equality for everyone, including the women who choose to make a living this way and the men who choose to enjoy it.
The recent, high-profile events around Je Suis Charlie saw global leaders telling the world it must be tolerant about free speech. Nay, CHAMPION free speech. The Muslims who find Charlie Hebdo insulting and deeply uncomfortable are expected to just ignore it and brush it aside. We can’t champion free speech with one hand and berate it (in the form of Page Three) with the other. It doesn’t make sense.
The issue is conditioning – Page Three makes women feel insecure and sub-standard, it creates a ridiculous idea in our society that all women should be flawless, white and skinny with large breasts. It gives men the idea that women don’t mind being ogled and judged. It gives the impression to all that working-class men are simple beings who require some kind of sexual gratification to engage their interest.
The truth is, man or woman or child, Page Three does nobody any favours (unless you’re Rupert Murdoch, then you’re laughing all the way to the bank).
Published, 21st January 2015